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Consultation starts early on NHS building programme

The Department of Health will start work this month developing a successor to its ProCure 21 hospital building programme.

The eight current ProCure 21 contractor teams are expected to be involved in a series of three workshops with the department over the next six weeks to help shape development of a new procurement programme.

The move comes after the decision in April this year to extend the current ProCure 21 framework for two years to September 2010. It had originally been scheduled to finish next year.

“It may seem like they are starting the whole process very early, but this will be a massive framework that will take a lot of planning. The department is quite wisely getting some of those who have worked on it together now to make sure that the successes achieved under ProCure 21 so far are continued by whatever replaces it in 2010,” said one P21 source.

While it has had to overcome a series of problems since its inception - including the loss of some of the framework members and the closure of NHS Estates, which used to manage it - ProCure 21 has been endorsed by the National Audit Office as an efficient way for delivering hospital projects on time and on budget.

In 2006 89 per cent of ProCure 21 projects were finished on time compared to 63 per cent of other public sector building projects. Ninety-four per cent of P21 projects were delivered within their budgets.

“They won’t want to change too much. The key issues that they will want to look at will be the number of contractors that they need to make up the framework and whether it should be mandatory,” said another P21 source.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: “We are now beginning to explore the options available to us post-2010.

“The industry and NHS will play a key role in this consultation but we will not be making an announcement for some time as we are at the very beginning of the process.”

Analysis: A turnaround from an unhappy start

By Alasdair Reisner

The Department of Health should be commended for the way it has pulled a victory from the jaws of defeat with its ProCure 21 programme.

Two years ago the framework was staring into the abyss with no clear management following the resignation of Peter Woolliscroft, the programme director who had been instrumental in keeping the show on the road in its early years.

But despite funding cuts in the NHS, ProCure 21 has more than proved itself as a way of procuring projects that are delivered on time and on budget.

Having extended the scheme until 2010 the current management has not rested on its laurels.
Instead they are giving themselves plenty of time to put some polish on plans for the programme post-2010. Perhaps the strongest endorsement of the scheme as it stands is that, minor tweaks aside, they shouldn’t have too much to change.